Saturday, July 04, 2015

Journey of Terton Sherab Mebar’s Kudung (body)

In my last post I have briefly narrated the history of Terton Sherab Mebar, the first known treasure discoverer to have set foot in Bhutan. As promised I will narrate the history of his kudung(body) that seemed to have a life of its own and created history and mysteries greater than the living Terton himself.

Because Terton Sherab Mebar went against the prophecy one too many times and compromised the whole divine mission he had been assigned, his mission on earth seemed to have been terminated prematurely. He died in his thirties leaving behind many unfinished works. He was supposed to visit Nub Tshonapatra seven times and discover treasures that will make our country rich in all times to come, but his first untimely attempt jeopardized everything.

Terton Sherab Mebar was living in Pangpisa after that life-threatening mission to Nub Tshonapatra, when he called to attend a big event in Baylangdra, Wangdue. As usual he summoned the nine households in Pangpisa and asked them to bring him a stone that could fit in his palm. He was presented with a broken piece of stone. He asked if the stone was already in that shape or did the people break it into that shape. When he was told that the stone was a freshly broken piece he took it as a bad sign. He told his nine patrons that the signs told him that he might not return alive from Wangdue and therefore instructed them to bring his body back to Pangpisa.

He squeezed the stone with his bare hands like it were wet clay and left his handprint on the stone as blessing to the people there. This stone with his handprint was one among many such stones he left behind from different occasions. In fact, every household in Pangpisa owned one each besides the six that were in the temple. One was a chunk of gold he took from Pasakha, during his failed mission of unearthing endless supply of gold, silver and salt.

As foreseen, Terton Sherab Mebar died in Baylangdra, Wangude and message reached Pangpisa. Group of men went there to claim Lam’s kudung (body) as wished by lam himself but people in Baylangdra refused to give away. They said, it was lam’s wish to die in their village and therefore the body must rest there.

Disappointed patrons of Pangpisa ever since spied on Baylangdra. It was during the harvest season that year that every able man from the village went on their annual alms seeking event. The temple in which the kudung was preserved was guarded by a lame gomchen who couldn’t go with the rest. Men from Pangpisa waited for this moment and without wasting any time they barged into the temple and tied the lone gomchen onto the pillar, and to keep him from starving they kept a huge pot of porridge at his reach to last through until the village returned. Thus, the kudung was stolen and brought to Pangpisa.

There is no record of what happened after this until centuries later after Zhabdrung’s era. It was during Tshulthrim Namgyel’s (Popularly known as Penlop Haap) reign as the Parob or Paro Penlop (governor of Paro), that he asked the people of Pangpisa to hand over the kudung to the center government in Paro for better preservation. Paro was the center of Western Region then. He explained to the people of Pangpisa that the Kudung was a national treasure and the there could not be a better place for the kudung than Paro Rinpung Dzong. It could be safe from disasters and also secured from Tibetan invaders.

People of Pangpisa reluctantly consented with the intention of secretly stealing it back. The Kudung was stored in the Marchey of Paro Dzong, secured in a wooden box and sealed into the wall. No sooner did they give away the kudung, they began planning their moves to steal it back. They kept one of their local monks to spy and get access to the Marchey. The monk started chanting Dem, the prayer in worship of Jetsun Dema, from day one and made the entire Dzong believe that he was the best candidate to be the caretaker of Dema Lhakhang, the chamber in the Dzong dedicated to Jetsun Dema.

That was their first move; they wanted to get access into the Dema Lhakhang because beneath it was the Marchey where their lam’s kudung was kept. Meanwhile, some men from Pangpisa worked with blacksmiths in Paro Woochu to prepared iron rods with hook on one, and rest of the men worked on creating a proxy of Lam’s kudung using clay.

One day, when most elder monks were out of the Dzong for rituals, the team from Pangpisa sneaked into the Dzong with the proxy kudung and got straight into the Dema Lhakhang. They removed the floorings that were straight overhead the kudung and using the iron rods fished the box containing the kudung. Unfortunately they discovered the box was too big for the narrow gap between horizontal beams running across under the floor. According to their plan they were to lift the box into Dema Lhakhang, take out lam’s Kudung, replace it with the proxy and place back the box in the Marchey as if nothing had happened.

But their plan failed when they couldn’t lift the box through the beams. They then broke open the box in midair and tried to take out the kudung but they found that even the kudung won’t fit through the gap, except for the head. When they ran out of ideas and time they decided to at least take something if not the whole Kudung, so they cut of head from the body and replaced it with head of the proxy kudung. The box was sealed again and placed back.


For next many years, no one knew about this high profile break in, not until a fire disaster that razed down Paro Rinpung Dzong (Date to be confirmed), about which I couldn’t find any information yet. Penlop Haap was still in Power, and he was said to have jumped into the raging fire to save the kudung. Everyone thought he might have burned to death but he came out of the fire with the box without so much as a blister and without even burning a single strand of hair.

When they opened the box to assess the kudung, they found the head of the kudung had turned into earth. This saddened the Penlop, but upon further inspection he found that the rest of the body was intact. Then he knew that something was done with the head. He furiously tried to detach the earthen head from the body but soon figured out that the earthen head had merged with the body. It’s said that the earthen head gradually turned into real head and smiled at the Penlop. He lived with much regrets for not being able to ask anything when the kudung came alive for that brief moment.

Penlop Haap rebuilt Paro Rinpung Dzong and placed the kudung back in the Marchey of the new Dzong. However, he was told that the Dzong would be destroyed yet again in times to come. He therefore prayed to be reborn in Paro so that he could be the one to rebuild the Dzong again.
Ruin of Paro Dzong after 1907 fire (I am looking for a better picture)

In 1907, when Paro Penlop Dawa Penjor was in power, Paro Rinpung Dzong suffered another major fire disaster. The penlop was said to have fainted twice, once when was told about fire and next then he reach the Dzong and knew the Kudung could not be salvaged. So that was the end of the long journey of Pangpi Lam’s Kudung, across almost 700 years.

Penlop Dawa Penjor was believed to be the reincarnation of Penlop Haap, and it’s said that he always saw this coming. He had stored hundreds of strange balls stitched in animal hide, which looked like stone used in ancient weighing scale, in the fireproof basement of the Dzong.

Paro Penlop Dawa Penjor(?)
Later after the ashes cooled down, and when the entire officials were worried about the reconstruction, and even planned to send people to India and Tibet for donation, Penlop Dawa Penjor told them not to worry about funds. He sent his men to collect the stones covered in leather from the basement. Confused men thought the Penlop was badly shaken by the fire incident; nonetheless they presented hundreds of heavy balls to the penlop. He then cut open the leather covers and showed hundreds of football-sized balls of pure gold. He funded the entire reconstruction and most of the objects in the Dzong today were made of pure gold.

When the Dzong was completed, Penlop Dawa Penjor approached the people of Pangpisa to bring the head of the kudung for the consecration ceremony of the new Dzong. He promised the people that it would be returned in three days. Penlop Dawa Penjor was known for his honesty and integrity and when he approached, the people consented.

1914 Paro Dzong restored to by Penlop Dawa Penjor
On the third day of the consecration ceremony birds hovered over the Dzong and made strange sounds, some birds fought overhead and dropped dead on the Dzong courtyard. Dawa Penjor immediately consulted his astrologer and found out that if he didn’t return the kudung’s head to Pangpisa there was threat to either his life or the safety of the Dzong. He returned the Kudung’s head right away. It was later discovered that people of Pangpisa had been performing deadly religious rituals for the safe return of their most priced treasure ever since Penlop took it from them.

The head was on display on the day I visited Ugyen Guru Lhakhang in Pangpisa. I just look at it for the longest time and wondered what a journey it underwent across almost 800 years.

Paro Penlop Dawa Penjor's wife's home in Paro Geptey, now converted into Heritage Museum

Disclaimer: I need to straighten the Facts about the first fire incident in Paro Rinpung Dzong and the era of Penlop Haap. There is also an event that involved Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyal, which I need to confirm. If you have details, please share with me.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

History of Terton Sherab Mebar We Missed in School

My mother told me tales about a certain Pangpi Lam, who went to Nub Tshonapatra, a lake northwest of Haa, to fetch a golden pillar that was growing on the bottom of the lake. He took with him a group of carpenters who were to fell the golden pillar when he vanished the water from the lake. The carpenters were instructed to take the gold splinters that came out from the one-foot margin they were given for chopping.

But the carpenters grew greedy as they saw chunks of gold flying all over on the impact of their axes. They went beyond the margin. Lam signaled the relentless carpenters to maintain the margin given because he had held up the lake water in his mouth and could not speak. When the workers went way too much Lam had to shout at them to stop, but then the lake busted out of his mouth and killed all workers. The raging water then chased Lam who now lost his meditative concentration.

Fleeing Lam had with him some treasures extracted from the lake which he threw one by one to distract his pursuer. Each time he dropped an object a portion of water settled over it and formed a small lake. The lakes were called Nga Tsho (Drum Lake), Dung Tsho (Trumpet Tsho) and so on, named after the treasures they were concealing. When the Lam finally reached his monastery the water retreated and by then Lam had only a cymbal with him.
Nub Tshonapatra (Tsho Na Pa Tra) Picture: Dechen Pema

I thought it was another folk tale until I learned the presence of the single cymbal in Paro Dzong. It can be seen and heard during the first day of Paro Tshechu. That made me interested in the story of Pangpi Lam.

Then I discovered there was a place called Pangpisa where the legendary lam lived, wherein the name Pangpi Lam came. His real name was Terton Sherab Mebar. I was told his body was preserved to this day. It even connected to the famous Pangpi Reip, the religious medicinal ball, reputed to cure any form of internal infection including cancer. The Reip was rolled out from the dust gathered from terton’s remains.

All these fragments of mythical and historical information finally formed proper shape and fitted together on 24.06.2015 when I visited the very place, which is now called Ugyen Guru Lhakhang, in Pangpisa. Thanks to my friend Sonam Ura for making a special arrangement for our team on the day they had all the treasures on display.

Despite the bad road, there was a huge crowd that has come to receive blessing from the supernatural objects. Our team patiently waited until late afternoon to take our turn. It was worth the wait because the crowd has disappeared and we were just about twenty of us at the end. We sat around the current Pangpi Lam, who had all the treasure displayed on his table.

The charming and witty orator began the history lesson, and for the first time I realized that Terton Sherab Mebar lived way before Zhabdrung and even before Terton Pema Lingpa. He was believed to be born in 1267. As a passionate history student what was very intriguing about him was the specifics we could draw right out of the three tiny pecha (religious text) written on palm leaves in his own handwriting. The two were said to have details of his treasures and one about his own life.

As much as I love to share about the Terton I am scared I might dilute the great piece of history, therefore I will just dwell on certain aspects of his life and legend and leave the rest for Dr. Karma Phuntsho to do justice.

Terton Sherab Mebar approached Bhutan through the Jomolhari, where he discovered his first treasure. He continued to Bumthang through Baylangdra in Wangdue. Once in Bumthang he had to look for a girl called Pema Chuki of certain age to accompany him in discovering certain treasure but that triggered suspicion in the region. The ruler in Bumthang too had his eye on the same girl.

The suspicious ruler demanded Terton to prove himself to the people Bumthang by discovering treasure from Mebar Tsho. Terton resisted, saying that the time hadn’t come for the Mebar Tsho treasures to be discovered. He told them that three generations later his own reincarnation would come to discover treasures from the lake. This added more suspicion and he had to prove himself by going to the Mebar Tsho with burning lamp in his hand. He came out with two chests of treasures only to be returned back to the lake to be rediscovered generations later by rightful Terton, Pema Lingpa.

He, however couldn’t marry Pema Chuki and therefore couldn’t discovered the treasure he was destined to do in the company of the prophesied khandro. This was the beginning of many events that were going to go wrong in his life, and ultimately cost him his life.

The next failure happened in Pasakha where he was prophesied to discover cave of gold, silver and salt. When he meditated near the area a landslide occurred and open the cave door to endless resources but on his way to the cave he met three people carrying empty baskets, which was considered very ominous. Everything in the cave turned into rock and sand.

He finally reached Pangpisa, through Sombaykha and Jabana, the ultimate destination to which he was directed. It was here that he had to wait till the age of 25 to be able to head to Nub Tshonaparta to reveal the world of treasure wealth that could sustain our country throughout times to come. It was prophesied that he would visit the lake seven times in his lifetime. But as restless as he was, and because of the growing suspicion even in Pangpisa he had to leave for Nub Tshonapatra earlier than prophesized to reestablish himself. That’s when the story my mother told me happened. It was a failure. Thirty-two carpenters and workers were killed that day.

In addition to what my mother told me, Ap Chundu, the local deity of Haa was said to have negotiated between the Lam and the lake when he was chased by the lake. An agreement was drawn that stated that Pangpi Lam would never cross Tego La.
Ap Chundu told the Lam that he had divine instructions to help the Terton in extracting the golden pillar when the right time came but Terton had taken local carpenters ahead of the destined time to put abrupt end to the prophesy.

Terton who was actually prophesied to live for ages and discover many more treasures died an untimely death in his 30s in Baylangdra, Wangdue.

Handwritten record left by Terton himself and the numerous treasures he left behind backed all the events I shared in greater details and astounding preciseness.


In next post I will share about the controversial journey of Terton’s Kudung (body) from Baylangdra to Pangpisa and to Paro Dzong within the span of 700 years. Only the skull of Terton's Kudung survived today and it’s back in Pangpisa, which was on display on the day I visited.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Bhutanese Bloggers App- Coming soon

On 24 June 2015 we saw the union of 35 Bhutanese bloggers in Thimphu. 35 is by far the biggest number we had so far. This time almost every blogger in Thimphu managed to come, with little icing on the top from Wangdue and Paro. A friend of Bhutanese bloggers from Singapore, Rima has also made it to the gathering.
We ran out of space in this room...

During this Blogger Meet we made some serious decisions with guidance from Dasho Sangay Khandu and Au Yeshey Dorji; first we decided to call ourselves the Community of Bhutanese Bloggers and we agreed to meet at least twice a year. With optimism given by the overwhelming attendance we felt the need to look for better settings hereafter and to sustain the community we decided on membership fee. An elected working group is now working on a document that will guide our events.

The community made it clear that we may support each other but will never influence or interfere with anyone's freedom of expression, and that goes on to say that individual bloggers are solely responsible for what they write and how they write, even after having the community. It's little early to say but I see ourselves organising inspirational workshops to empower bloggers. We even saw possibilities of organising Bloggers awards.

Personally, my favourite outcome of the meet would be the idea of creating a smartphone app I randomly shared, which I am not sure if other endorsed but nonetheless I will work on this and when it's done I am sure the community will love it.

The App is going to be something like BHUTANews that collates feeds from all news sites. Our app will collate feeds of our members' blogs so that every blogger gets equal readership. The app can have features to analyse blogs through readership and interaction to come up with nominations for possible blogger awards. I'm going to talk to the maker of BHUTANews, who is a very good friend of mine. Let me find out what it would take to have such an app.
By the time we settled for this photo session, 12 friends have left...

I want to thank my co-organizers Nawang Phuntsho, Riku Dhan Subba and Rekha Mongar for making it possible. For the cosy venue and refreshment We would like to thank our friend Tharchen, CEO of iBest. And for the dinner, we would like to thank Wangyel Tshering for your generous donation and Ma'am Tshering Dollar for offering to add on it.

We missed so many bloggers who weren't in Thimphu on the day. We would like you to know that the community would love to have your presence in the future meets. There is no criteria, no formality and no restriction of any sort. No one is a stranger in the community.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Letter to Thimphu Thrompon: What's the Worth of a Poor Man's Life in Your City?

Dear Thrompon Kinley Dorji, Thimphu,

I have very high regards for you. You have been the biggest and the nicest surprise we had out of the voting machine. I applauded you every time I saw you on TV; for your work, you honesty, your fairness and your fearlessness. But this time I am thoroughly disappointed with you.

I want to ask you, what’s the worth of a poor man’s life in your city, Thimphu? The way you handled the death of your 63-year-old employee was very insensitive as the employer. He died in the line of duty and it was your duty to give him an honorable funeral and compensate his family as per the company policy. But you have reduced his life’s worth to Nu.40,000 that’s not even worth the smart phone in your hand. You have left the rest to the fate of the case against the building owner who is busy blaming the ambulance.

Amidst this shameless and endless blame game the sentiments of the poor family is sidelined. The family’s sole bread earner is gone, widow is in her sixties who now has to look after several children, some of whom are disabled. The family is not even worried about car or phone, they are running out on food supplies. Why should the family suffer for so long? The family needs support now and the company compensation should have reached them already. You as their leader should have at least managed to comfort the family with normal compensation.

The building owner who built that burial wall should be held responsible for death of a public servant on duty due to their negligence. This case should be fought with all your might and come out with a landmark victory that will pave way for all Bhutanese to understand their right and to respect other’s right, regardless of social status. Whatever you can draw out from them can be paid to the bereaved family as additional compensation. Yes, additional compensation, the real compensation should not depend on this.

And if the wall owner thinks Nu.200,000 is huge and wants to keep blaming the hospital for not sending a health worker along with the driver, then they should perhaps read the story of a widow who won a $23.6 Billion Lawsuit against tobacco company R.J. Reynolds. In this case, her husband died of lung cancer and not killed by their company truck.

Personally, today on father's day I miss my father who was killed in a bus accident. The bus company should have been responsible, the driver should have been responsible, or the house owner who kept debris on the narrow road should have been responsible but only my father paid the price. My family alone suffered. This should not happen to anyone at this time and age. 

So, dear Thrompon please pay the compensation first and then pursue the case with the wall owner. In your city even a pet dog gets more respect, he was a human being, he worked for the city, don’t let this happen.

Still Very Respectfully Yours
PaSsu

Saturday, June 20, 2015

My Mother is Back in Village

I was very happy when my mother went to Thimphu to live with my sister. I always wanted her to lead easy life once we grew up, because she had suffered enough of rural hardship in brining me and my four siblings up. The time had come for her to hang her spades. She could live with me but she chose to live with my sister because she found herself more useful there because my office going sister needed a helping hand in babysitting her two children.

My mother, proud as she should be, gave away our cows and hens, left the fields fellow, locked our home and came to Thimphu to live with her daughter, along with our baby sister. In Thimphu, the sunburn on her face soon faded, her rough fingers softened and she gained weight. It was the beginning of a happy chapter in her life. She was the queen of the family with a loving brother inlaw.

She would visit me briefly from time to time, and we would talk of our village and people there. Soon we had very less subjects to talk about, because she didn't have anything more to talk about our village. I could sense a subtle longing in her during the long hours we spent near the TV in silence. She would sleep in the afternoon like a baby and mostly grumble about petty thing. My once confident mother who was a leader of kind in our village sounded so subdued over time.

How can her life be so wonderful in Thimphu when she personally had nothing significant to aspire to in life, given the kind of person she has always been. She would wake up in the morning and help prepare my little sister and niece for school, then after my brother inlaw and sister left she would take my nephew out to play. When the little boy would get tired of play she would put him to sleep and fall asleep alongside. She had managed a few friends in the neighbourhood with whom she would spend her long lonely afternoons.

In the evening when everybody returned home she would make them tea and spend the next hours running after the kids. Over dinner they would watch TV and there she would have no common topic with school going and office going people. If some guest showed up she would help with tea and snacks but if the guest was not a family member she knew, then she would take the kids into another room and wait till they left. This was her daily routine. It could have been so beautiful if it was just for a week or month but it went on for years. It was like she was waiting for the end purposelessly.

With My Ashim and our children on the way home

My mother had put on a visible amount of weight, lost her frontal teeth, complained about illnesses and had become so emotional. Every time I met her I felt little more guilty and when she nagged about petty thing I would even give her advices but deep inside I asked myself -what have we done? We were loving her in a wrong way. We took her away from home, leave her in urban isolation, make her so vulnerable to lifestyle diseases and proudly thought we were giving her our best.

Even when I thought of my village, I would first see the lock on our door, then I would see the faces of all the people who dies in last few years and even in my dreams I see my villages in gloomy weather. My villages without my mother wasn't quite the place I would want to think of. All the beautiful memories of village seemed somehow dimmed.

Toward the end of last year my mother expressed he wishes to return home because my little nephew has come of age to go to nursery school. Along with her our little sister would return too because the two of them were inseparable. Though we were worried about our little sister's education for long time we respected her decision this time.

My little Sister and Mother in the Village
Now my mother is back to the village and my sister goes to Chundu Middle Secondary School, which is just over ten minutes walk from our village. Our fields are green again, house is dusted and our chimney is smoking again. Sunburn has darkened my mother's face again but I can see a broad smile on her dark face. There are endless things in village that keeps her busy and during auspicious days she goes to village temple where elders would gather to sing Mani and chat about life.
My Happy mother with her children and Grandchildren

When I visited home last month she looked very happy and busy. I don't have to worry about lifestyle diseases anymore because she is physically engaged in some many village activities. And during the lazy afternoons she spends time with neighbours and chat endlessly over tea. She has gotten rid of her nap habits too. Her confidence is back and she is everybody's Aum Gaki in the village. I hope she will soon get back her posts as Village Health Worker, Manager of Milk Booth, Member of Women Association of Haa...

And Remember, last time during the Royal Visit she was chosen to offer Tshogchhang and that's when she was blessed with the photograph of her life with His Majesty, Her Majesty and the prime minister.
The Photograph of Her life, and ours!

Now when I think of my village I first see my happy mother's face and then our green fields. I have good dreams of my village and I once again feel like a hostel student longing to go home. Home is where mother is happy. 

Disclaimer: My village has road, electricity, etc. and is only 4 km from the town. It has three high school high schools and a junior school within five km radius. Therefore the village I am talking about cannot be related to many difficult ones across the country. I am only talking about life in my village. There are many other villages in which I won't imagine people leaving their parents for whatever reasons. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

108 Prayer Flag Business- A Social Enterprise

In my last post I wrote about our tradition of offering 108 prayer flags for the departed souls, which means felling 108 young trees and therefore I proposed a green idea of making it a National service requirement ofeach Bhutanese citizen to plant 108 trees in one’s lifetime (within a given age range).

However, I stumbled onto another idea about the same issues and this time it’s a social business idea. Those of you who have physically gone through the process of finding, felling, peeling, and dragging 108 flag poles from deep woods over a long distance would know how arduous it is. Now, having to do it during the emotionally low time when you have lost someone in the family makes it heartbreaking. You would rather pay any cost to have someone else do it for you. Wouldn’t you?

Prayer Flag in the fields in Paro, Across my home


Now who could be that someone else? Here is the social business idea. We can build a social enterprise around this idea. There are already thousands of prayer flags standing along the hills in patches of clearings. They have done their job, prayers have faded and souls are delivered to heavens perhaps. What we could do is collect those old poles and store them up in warehouses in different regions and make sets of 108 poles ready to be delivered on a call and at a price.

During my difficult times, when my mother in-law passed away, I didn’t have the emotional, mental or physical strength to apply for pass from the forestry department, gather over twenty men and go deep into the woods to fetch that many poles. I remembered my good friend Tshering Tenzin, who knew the lam at Chhimi Lhakhang. I called him to help me because when his mother passed away we went there and the lam had kept more than 108 old poles ready. The same arrangement was made for me too. Amazingly it didn’t cost me anything though I would pay anything for such help.
Old flagpole at Chhimi Lhakhang
This social business will not only save bereaved families from any additional torment during difficult times but also safe trees greatly by reusing the poles for as long as they could last.

The enterprise can additionally explore new ways to replace flagpole with bamboo pole, metallic pole or any environmental friendly and economically sustainable options. 

And the good news is I am giving away this business idea to whoever wants to take it forward with the condition that you will aways keep it affordable. It's a social service more than business.

Friday, June 12, 2015

108 Trees in a Lifetime for Citizenship

Bhutan's first ever Guinness World Record 'Most Trees Planted in an Hour' made a statement of our relation with trees. Perhaps it must be one of the most meaningful records ever set, and coming it from a small nation like ours is a huge pride. To make it the most memorable event ever it was dedicated to the celebration of the 60th birth Anniversary of our beloved fourth king, who has placed environment at the heart of our constitution and all of our national development plans.
"Coinciding with Social Forestry Day on June 2, a team of 100 volunteers got their hands deep in the ground to plant a total of 49,672 trees in just 60 minutes, smashing the previous record by nearly 10,000."- Guinness World Record
 The record required each man to plant over 8 trees per minute, god knows how they did that. I would like to congratulate the 100 super humans, the organiser Karma Tshering and everybody in the team for the making us so proud.

Our Guinness World Record inspired a green idea. If an ordinary Bhutanese has the potential of planting 500 trees in an hour, can every Bhutanese citizen plant at least 108 trees in a life time? Easily. Therefore I think it must be made a citizenship requirement to plant 108 trees to rightfully call yourself Bhutanese.

I heard in some countries you have to serve in the military for at least a year to fulfil your requirement as citizen, and in some countries you have to have voted in an election to have access to public services. Likewise I thought we Bhutanese could do more than just being born here.

I chose the auspicious number 108 because that's the exact numbers of young trees we cut down to offer prayer flags when someone dies. So 108 trees will be felled for each one of us regardless of our environmental morals. However, incase of non-buddhists the number could be viewed differently or changed to another significant number, because after all it's the tree we are placing at the centre.
The 108 prayer flags ...
If this is taken seriously our 70% forest cover can be maintained for ages without affecting the developmental activities because we have the potential of planting 75,600,000 tress with our current population alone and it's only going to grow. This is well beyond any record on the planet and Bhutan's greatest gift to the world.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Archery Safety Measures: How to Handle the Weapon Safely

Today we saw another gruesome reminder of how dangerous the game of hybrid archery has become; the man seen on news today still had the arrow struck on his skull. God knows how he survived to see another day. He was among the luckiest few victims, while there were many who weren’t as fortunate.

In Bhutan, if we had statistics, we might find that arrow had killed more people than tiger, bear and leopard put together. In fact, once not very long ago, one arrow hit a member of parliament, as if to ask for intervention from the house.

If we check through newspapers and hospital records we won’t believe the amounted invested in evacuating and treating people hit by arrows. Only recently I remember two incidences where helicopters had to be deployed to evacuate the victims.


Hunting Weapon

It’s time to acknowledge that the hybrid archery played with foreign hunting weapons is not only dangerous but also economically and socially damaging. First of all this new games has threatened and totally confused the very identity and existence of our national game (Read Nawang P Phuntsho's The way out for our National Sports). The next generation of Bhutanese children will not even know that we had an indigenous game called archery. But I am not going to discuss much on its cultural, social, and economical impacts, which can be a huge subject all together.


The Dying National Game...

Let’s just look at the safety issues of the game. We know that the gaming equipment are imported weapons, which anyone with money can use without even looking at the experience. The archery playing fields have no significant safety measures in place, though it attracts huge crowd during tournaments. Most archery playing fields are located dangerously in public places.

In Paro there are incidences of stray arrows hitting people walking in the town, in Thimphu Changlimenthang if an arrow goes astray it can hit a footballer and you know how archery field occupies similar dangerous locations across the country. To make it worse, anyone with set of the gaming weapons can play in this critical locations.

What safety measure can be taken to avoid mishaps in this lethal game?

Relocate Archery playing fields away from populated areasMake it mandatory for all archery fields to have standard safety pavilions for spectatorsSince the equipment is a weapon, the owner must have license to own it. The arms license should be issued after thorough background check. No person with drinking history should be given the license.Apart from owner license, there should be a pass, which certifies a person to play. Like the driving license, if you aren’t experienced enough you should play in remote fields and not in public grounds.Alcohol should be ban from archery fields and defaulter should be rid of their playing pass.The tournament organizers should be held accountable for any mishaps during the tournament.Encourage private playing fields with lightings so that amateur players can practice at night.

My suggestions might sound a little crazy for the moment but considering the craziness of the games itself they are only reasonable. In fact total restriction should be imposed on import of such weapons, because we never know when it will be used beyond the gaming fields. It’s during such goods that we have to make tough decisions.

UPDATE(12.6.2015)
This morning a stray arrow hit an unsuspecting biker in Paro. How many more incidences should happen before we realize that the Weapon we use for the games is lethal and archery ranges in public spaces are dead traps? Isnt it enough example already?

Monday, June 01, 2015

Being Responsible and Smart on Social Media

This is the transcript of the talk I gave to students in Yoezerling Higher Secondary School, Paro on May 30, 2015. The content of the speech is partially edited to suit the general readers on my blog but may still be relevant to just Bhutanese audience.

Good Morning. Respected Principal, teachers and dear students, thank you very much for being here this morning to listen to us. I would like to thank Media Club coordinator Madam Gyem Om for inviting us and considering us worth listening to.

My Name is Passang Tshering. I am a teacher at the Royal Academy.

I would like to take this opportunity to talk to this young group of people about something that’s handed to your generation as the greatest opportunity-The Social Media. But it’s opportunity only as long as you can handle it wisely.

Let me first define Social Media for you. There can be many difficult definitions but if I may put it in the simplest form. What’s media or Medium? It’s the means of mass communication. Think of TV, Radio and Newspaper. These are Medium of reaching out to mass. They are formal institutions run by trained people and governed by rules and regulations.

Now imagine each one of us having a newspaper of our own to write about everything we do, everything thing we like, and about people love. Imagine your own TV Channel to broadcast your family shows and your own music videos or a radio station on which you are the RJ… such mediums are called Social Media.

Facebook is your personal newspaper, your personal TV Channel, your personal Magazine. Likewise Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, WeChat, Sound Cloud, Google+ and thousand others.

Kuensel may be selling about 5000 copies if it gets lucky, BBS has the highest potential of 700,000 viewers, and all other Mass mediums in Bhutan have few thousand audiences. Now compare that to Facebook that has 1.44 billion active users. It’s over 2000 times bigger than Bhutan, with no borders and almost no rules. It’s your own world, it will grow everyday, and you can do whatever you wish. But remember 1.44 billion people out there can also do what ever they like.

There are some general terms of use beyond that the freedom is unlimited. The two big questions are how to use that freedom well and how to keep yourselves safe in the world that’s free.

Let me tell you my story, On Facebook I have reached my 5000 friends limit, therefore now I have started a Page. I have begun a virtual company called Bhutan Toilet Organization on Facebook. It’s doing very well and soon I can bring it out as a real organization. I have started a Business group on Facebook some years ago called bBay. It’s has 44,000 members now. From Tashigang to Samtse, Austerlia to Bangkok, bBay has made buying and selling very easy. Then I got an idea to let people advertise in my group and from there I earn 10,000 to 20,000 per month. Besides the money I earned I have earned name. Wherever I go there is at least one person in a group who would say, “You are PaSsu of bBay. Thank you man, your bBay has help me sell my car, you bBay has helped me find a land. Etc.”
I have also co-founded a group called Writers Association of Bhutan, in which we motivate young writers. Many of our members have published their own books. We plan to help writers write and get them connected to publishers. We have nearly 20,000 members.
I am also on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, WeChat, and my personal favorite is my blog. I have a personal blog called PaSsu Diary. It’s a website in which I write stories related to family, school, society and sometime politics. People from different walks of life read my articles and among them I have found many friends. Newspapers take stories from my blog and print in their papers.

I was honest and sincere in my writings but at the same time I have been polite, respectful and talked about issues more than people. I justify my allegations and sometimes when I was wrong I apologized. I didn’t attack any individual personally; I didn’t insult or humiliate individuals. Sometimes when I had to write about certain individual I didn’t write their names.

But many people think being honest, sincere, critical and straightforward is same as being aggressive, arrogant, disrespectful and nasty. Actually it’s the opposite.

Because of my good behaviors on all the social media platforms I have been appointed as the first Social Media Monitor during the last election. The Chief Election Commissioner personally called me to be the Social Media Monitor. For six months I had two jobs.

I have been invited to many workshops to be speakers, such as SAARC Literature Fest, Mountain Echoes, Media Nomad etc. including this platform today. I have also received offers from big Hotels to be their guest and just say ‘I am here at hotel so and so’. One NGO called me to their office and gave me an iPad, Hard Drive, WiFi Station and many other devices and asked me to try them out. It’s actually a gift.

I have had the honour of visiting the office of the Prime Minister, and beyond all the honour of visiting Lingkana Palace.

I think I have done enough of Donkey praise but I hope you understood what I am trying to say. Social Media is a world of its own, and just like this practical world good behaviors is expected and rewarded. 

Now let me present to you the ugly side of Social Media. Like I told you millions of people are there in that free world. Just like in the real world there are good people and bad people; don’t worry about the good people. What type of Bad people would we find on social media- thieves, frauds, criminals, liars, bullies, rapists, murderers, and the list goes on. The biggest danger is their access to millions of innocent people right there on their screen. You can be their victim.
How do your protect yourselves? First, beware of strangers. Don’t just make friends with everybody. If you don’t know the person, and has no reason why he should be your friend just don’t accept requests.

If there are some nasty people who bother you all the time, remove them from your list of friends. Life is too short to waste with people who make you unhappy. Also avoid those people who are always negative, these people could influence you over time.

If someone tells you that he is going to send you parcel or money, just know that he is a fraud. Many Bhutanese fell victims to this sort of international scams. They will say that they have sent you iPhone, iPad etc. and also show you receipts. But soon they will say the parcel is struck somewhere in Bangkok or Calcutta. Then you will be made to send $500 -$1000. Some people I heard have sent over Nu.2 million believing in people who promised to build hotel in our country.

There are many other ways of people can cheat you, but you have to know just one important rule: if someone talks about money then that’s the clue, because no stranger will randomly send you money or diamond ring.

Anonymity is another issue on Internet. Most wrong doers on social media are anonymous. They hide their real identity, use fake names and pictures to do all the wrong things. They know we can never find them. Therefore, you have to be smart enough to know that some people you are dealing with on social media, whom you don’t know personally, are fake people.

The next important thing to remember is being mindful of what you post online and whom you share with. Good things are hard to notice, but bad things spread like wild fire, so be very careful about what you are putting online. Ask yourself, ‘Will I not regret after putting this up?’

Be mindful about doing anything with electronic devices in the first place. You mobile phone and laptops have many secret things you don’t know. You think you have deleted something but people can use simple software and retrieve it. And nowadays, these smart phones are connected to Cloud servers; every picture you take on your mobile automatically gets backed up on the cloud. The Cloud can be hacked or if you are not careful with your password people could sneak into all your files and pictures.

These days, if you are on Facebook, you will see many of your friends posting dirty pictures. The truth is they aren't doing it. In fact they themselves don’t see the pictures. It’s some sort of infected link that hacks into your account and misuses it. Therefore, you must be suspicious about unknown links anywhere on Internet. Clicking on such links is like giving them the key to your account.

Social Media is growing each day; opportunities are growing and danger is growing too. If there are things you are unsure about don’t take chances, just ask someone in school or at home. Never do something you are unsure of and never hesitate to seek help.

I would like to end here. If there are some areas left out we will cover during the question answer session. Thank you.



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